The discovery of a new artist is the most exhilarating – that moment when you instantly connect with a work without your art historical brain flagging a piece as too referential, too obvious, too over-done. It is that incredible moment when you stop judging and just stare, ponder and smile. Even if the work is emotionally intense or sad, when that smile forms I know I have just seen something great.
I attend Old City’s First Friday not because it is a wonderful showing of contemporary art in Philadelphia, but because of its energy. Everyone is there. Every tourist. Every young professional. Every artisan looking to sell. The Old City galleries also open before my Chinatown and Fishtown favorites, extending my hours of art gazing that much longer.
But the art is okay. As with any exhibition space, not every show will be marvelous. Usually only one or three standout, keeping me walking in that dance of a circle as I navigate between bodies, sculptures and plastic cups of wine. This time around I lingered at Artists’ House Gallery, Larry Becker Contemporary Art, and, as always, The Center for Art in Wood. But what stole my eyes the longest was an exhibition of paintings by Gregory Prestegord at F.A.N Gallery.
Prestegord may be the best painter I have seen in Philadelphia. His works are exquisite, balancing a delicate and studied touch with rapid and animated movement. His paint strokes capture the invisibility of life’s stillness. Philadelphia neighborhoods pop out from layers of snowstorms, while boarded-up corner homes remind of us of too many streets. The works merge photographic memory with painting’s abstraction, creating new memories of Philadelphia from the images we pass through every day.
And then there is that rare moment when smiling turns into chuckling as you realize the painting of that building you are staring at was the same building you passed the other day, paused in front of, pulled out your phone and took a photo.
And then you are dancing.
Images of Prestegord’s works are copyrighted to the artist.